How Iranians Vote

By Christopher Bollyn

Two Iranian women show their inked fingers and the stamp on their identity cards showing that they have voted.

Two Iranian women show their inked fingers and the stamp on their identity cards showing that they have voted.

The Islamic Republic of Iran will have a presidential election on June 14, 2013. As an observer of elections in different countries I find that Iranian election procedures are very similar to those of the most democratic elections held in European nations, such as France. Iranians vote on paper ballots that are counted openly in each polling place in the presence of observers. The tally from each polling station is then verified openly and published by the government after the election. These are the most fundamental and essential elements of a transparent and democratic election, and these are exactly the elements that are sadly missing from elections in the United States.

It may come as a surprise but Iranian elections are much more transparent that elections in the United States. The voting process and the counting of the votes in Iran are transparent processes, while most votes in the United States are cast and counted on electronic voting systems run by private companies. The use of computer voting systems in the United States has actually allowed our elections to be stolen because the citizenry has lost its oversight of the crucial vote-counting process entirely. Today, there is virtually no open counting of the votes in polling stations in the United States because nearly all voting “data” is processed in computerized systems – not counted by citizens.

I recently read Going to Tehran (2013) by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett. This is an excellent and timely book that calls for the United States to come to terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is highly recommended reading and should help Americans understand why it is in the best interest of our nation to change course and stop trying to overthrow the Islamic Republic with economic sanctions, covert actions, and threats of war.

The Leveretts have served as high-level policy advisors on Iran in various departments and agencies of the U.S. government. In Chapter 6, “A Controversial Election,” they discuss the 2009 election in Iran. On page 246 they describe how Iranians vote and how the votes are counted:

Iranian votes are cast on paper ballots.

Iranian votes are cast on paper ballots.

Every Iranian aged eighteen or over, including those living abroad, may vote; in 2009, the Iranian government operated polling stations for expatriates in almost a hundred countries, including the United States. To vote, an Iranian must show an official ID with the bearer’s photograph, thumbprint, and a unique number. At the polling station, the voter’s name and ID number are recorded three times: by hand in a register, on a computer, and again by hand on the voter’s ballot stub. Before casting the ballot, the voter must press a purple-ink thumbprint onto the stub, which is then separated from the ballot and dropped into a “stub box.” (Separation of the stub prior to the casting of the ballot ensures the secrecy of the vote.) The voter marks the ballot and drops it into the ballot box; the voter’s ID card is then stamped, to prevent him or her from voting again.

The votes are counted at the polling stations. Before the polls open, observers at each station watch as the ballot boxes are verified to be empty. No votes are counted until after polls close. At that point observers at each station watch as the stubs and ballots are counted and their numbers compared. They then watch as

After the polls close the ballots are openly counted in each polling station with observers present.

After the polls close the ballots are openly counted in each polling station with observers present.

each candidate’s count is recorded on government-issued Form 22; at every station, multiple copies of Form 22 are signed by both officials and observers. Signed forms are placed inside the ballot box, which is sealed and turned over to local officials to hold; signed forms are also sent to the Interior Ministry and copies are given to each observer. In addition, information on these Form 22s is electronically transmitted to district-level offices, where, as candidate observers watch, vote totals from polling stations are aggregated into district-level results and recorded on government-issued Form 28s; these are sent both electronically and physically to the Interior Ministry, which aggregates them into provincial- and national-level results. In 2009, for the first time, data from polling stations were also transmitted directly to the ministry.

Source: Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2013

A version of this article was first published on Bollyn.com.

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